The winner of the inaugural Banjo Prize, Taking Tom Murray Home is a funny, moving, bittersweet Australian story of fires, families and the restorative power of community.
Jack and Jenny Murray are 13-year-old twins living in outback Victoria with their family and close-knit country community. With drought forcing many farms to close, and supermarkets upping prices, dairy farmer Tom Murray – the twins’ father – has always said that he’d rather sell off his herd and burn down his own house than hand it over to the bank! But when he accidentally dies in the process, his wife Dawn realises she can make his death mean something, both to their community, and to the wider Australian public.
Now their Australian-to-the-core small town, and especially Jack, Jenny and Dawn are at the heart of a media storm as Dawn makes the decision to take Tom’s body to Melbourne for his funeral. Via horse and cart. A horse and cart with signs painted on the sides, proclaiming statements like ‘Your Low Milk Prices Killed My Dad’. However, the night before their journey can even begin, the local bank burns down…
While this doesn’t stop their procession, it does add another level of mystery to the story. Especially when more mysterious fires occur along their journey, in every town they stop in. And all these fires are burning local banks and supermarkets. The question remains – will Dawn and her family make it to Melbourne to finally put Tom to rest? And how will everyone react when they find out who the mystery arsonist is.
This debut novel from Tim Slee does a fantastic job of bringing to life the very real issues facing our farmers. He also wonderfully addresses hereditary disease through the twins and their mother. While the exact type of disease in the book is fictional, it is based on a real-life condition, and Slee treats the condition with utmost respect.
Taking Tom Murray Home is a topical and beautiful portrayal of small-town Australia. It is a witty, heartbreaking and completely meaningful tale of the power of family and community. Featuring some of the most believable and completely Australian prose, Slee transports the reader right into the conversations being held. I don’t think I’ve read the words ‘freeby jayzus’ in a book before, but I can definitely picture them being said in outback Australia!
With characters you’ll love and who will make you simultaneously laugh and cry, Slee weaves a bittersweet, hilarious and touching story that is sure to find its place as an Australian classic.
About the Author
Tim Slee is an Australian journalist with a wanderlust. Born in Papua New Guinea to Australian parents who sprang from sheep country in the Mid-North and Far North of South Australia, he worked for several years for the Stock Journal in Adelaide before moving to Canberra and then Sydney where he worked for the Attorney General’s Department. Since then he has lived in Denmark, Canada, Australia and is currently on contract in Denmark again with a multinational pharmaceutical company. Although, according to his favourite airline, he has been around the world with them 22 times and visited 54 countries, Australia is still his physical and emotional home base. Taking Tom Murray Home is his first novel, and the winner of the inaugural Banjo Prize.